A rundown of project team roles and responsibilities

A rundown of project team roles and responsibilities
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Peek behind the curtain of any well-executed project, and you’re sure to find this: A team of people who are great on their own, and even better together. There are very few exceptions to this rule. Whether we’re talking about a software project or the masterpiece that is Stranger Things 4 (still not over it), you need a solid team to take your project from ideation to execution, masterfully.

In this blog post, we’ll show you how to assemble an all-star team for your next software project, covering questions like:

  • What exactly is a project? How do you know when a project team is necessary?
  • What roles make up members of a project team?
  • Lastly, what is each role responsible for?

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First, let’s define ‘project’

Before we get into who you need on your team, let’s make sure you need a project team to begin with. That starts with knowing the difference between a project and something else you’d work on in your company or organization — like a program, for example.

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), “All projects are a temporary effort to create value through a unique product, service or result. All projects have a beginning and an end. They have a team, a budget, a schedule, and a set of expectations the team needs to meet. Each project is unique and differs from routine operations—the ongoing activities of an organization—because projects reach a conclusion once the goal is achieved.”

TD;LR: If your undertaking has a clear start and finish, then you have a project and the need for a project team. Now, let’s take a look at what that team will look like!

An overview of project team roles

Every project team should include the following roles:

  • Business analyst
  • Project sponsor
  • Project manager
  • Project team members

Every role is an important role, and teamwork is the name of the game. But what exactly does each person bring to the table? Let’s find out.

Business analyst

First up, we have the business analyst (or BA, for short). As the name suggests, this person has a strong understanding of the business side of things. Their core responsibility is to identify ways to make the business more efficient, more profitable, and more sustainable. In that way, the business analyst acts as an ambassador for change within the organization (a function called change management, if you want to get technical).

What’s more is that the business analyst is able to take these business needs and translate them into the project deliverables. The BA makes sure that, upon successful completion, the project actually adds value to the company. You can think of the business analyst as the link between development and business, or between the project team and other stakeholders (a.k.a. anyone else with a vested interest in the project).

Business analyst responsibilities include:

  • Strategizing ways to improve business performance (mostly by interpreting lots of data)
  • Syncing up business goals with project goals

Project sponsor

If the business analyst is the bridge between business and development, then the project sponsor is the bridge’s reinforcement. Like the BA, the project sponsor has a strong understanding of how to keep business needs and project goals aligned. The project sponsor is usually a member of senior management and advocates for the project from a high organizational level. They make sure that everyone sees the value in the project, thus securing what every project needs: Funding!

This role is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the project and is active from the very beginning of the project lifecycle. In fact, the sponsor is responsible for creating the project charter, which is the document that authorizes the project and project manager. From there, the sponsor leaves the execution to the project manager but still offers support that keeps the project moving forward. They’re also a member of the steering committee, which Wrike defines as “an advisory group providing guidance on key decisions, which includes the sponsor, executives, and key stakeholders from the organization.”

Project sponsor responsibilities include:

  • Creating the project charter (the short document that defines the overall project objectives, project scope, and who’s involved)
  • Signing off on approvals that move the project through each phase
  • Collaborating with the project manager in facilitation of progress and alignment
  • Serving as the escalation point between the project manager and executive stakeholders

Note: In some companies, there is an executive sponsor that’s a separate role from the project sponsor. In that case, the executive sponsor acts as the ultimate decision maker, having more authority than the project sponsor.

Project manager

Next, we have the project manager. This person is the leader of the project team (a.k.a. the group of people carrying out the project activities). Whereas the business analyst and project sponsor are more focused on high-level strategy, the project manager cares about execution.

The project manager is able to take documents like the charter and roadmap (which give a bird’s eye view of the project) and turn them into a comprehensive project plan. From there, the project manager oversees the day-to-day work and keeps their finger on the project’s pulse through regular team check-ins. They may also consult with the project management office (PMO) to align their team’s processes with that of the larger organization. If a project management office is available at your organization, this group of people may be able to provide you with templates and frameworks to get you on the right track.

Project manager responsibilities include:

  • Creating the project plan (which outlines components like scope, budget, timeline, milestones, procedures)
  • Establishing the methodology (i.e. Agile)
  • Assembling and leading the project team

Pro tip for project managers: Meetings don’t have to come at the cost of your team’s Focus Time (cue the mind explosion sound effect). With Clockwise, you can effortlessly schedule team check-ins according to everyone’s availability (no back-and-forth needed!) while protecting opportunities for deep work — because you’re not just managing a team, you're managing everyone’s time. Click here to learn more!

Project team members

Meet the heroes of the day-to-day — the project team members. As mentioned above, this group of people carries out the actual project work (read: deliverables and even smaller project tasks). Instead of high-level planning, project team members focus on execution within the bounds of the project schedule and project budget.

Team member roles for an information technology (IT) project may include developers, designers, quality assurance engineers, technical writers, and so on. Whatever their roles and responsibilities on the team, members are ideally subject matter experts (SME) in their respective areas. Also, note that project team members could be full-time or part-time hires, internal staff or external consultants — it’s all up to the company.

Project team responsibilities include:

  • Completing project deliverables on time
  • Lending their expertise (especially important for cross-functional teams)
  • Communicating with their team members and project manager

Going forward

Software projects involve all sorts of stakeholders, but you’ll need these four roles to start:

  • The business analyst, who connects business needs to the project
  • The project sponsor, who endorses the project from a high level
  • The project manager, who plans and oversees the execution of the project
  • And the project team members, who complete project tasks and deliverables

About the author

Judy Tsuei

Judy Tsuei is a Simon & Schuster author, speaker, and podcast host. She’s been featured in MindBodyGreen, BBC Travel, Fast Company, Hello Giggles, and more. As the founder of Wild Hearted Words, a creative marketing agency for global brands, Judy is also a mentor with the Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed accelerator. Judy advocates for mental and emotional health on her popular podcast, F*ck Saving Face. Follow along her journey at WildHeartedWords.com.

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